SPA­CES OF BE­LONG­ING

Domus - - CONFETTI - Text Kai­wan Me­hta, Samira Rathod Photos Pankaj Anand

A se­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs of a house nes­tled in an Art Deco-style build­ing in a leafy by-lane in Mum­bai brings forth the vividly tac­tile and spa­tial qual­i­ties that go be­yond a vac­u­ous built en­vi­ron­ment and fo­cuses in­stead on the life that in­hab­its the space

Kai­wan Me­hta: What led you to this pho­to­graphic ex­plo­ration of your own house, de­signed a while ago?

Samira Rathod: Pho­to­graphs are an ex­ten­sion of our real ex­pe­ri­ences, lived at some mo­ment, and these mo­ments then pre­served in print to rem­i­nis­cence that time in space. When pic­tures of homes are pre­sented with­out peo­ple, they seem like empty car­casses; hol­low and life­less, as if the space’s only ob­jec­tive was to be show­cased, the space it­self ob­jec­ti­fied. With this photo es­say, I have re­versed the nar­ra­tive, which whilst makes the space its sub­ject, but not with­out the sug­ges­tion of life in­hab­it­ing it.

Homes are a re­flec­tion of the own­ers’ per­son­al­ity, and its para­pher­na­lia cre­ates the back­drop for its char­ac­ters and the per­for­mance of daily rou­tine. De­sign en­hances this per­for­mance, trans­form­ing its ba­nal­ity into the ex­tra­or­di­nary of the or­di­nary, in some sort of a hy­per­bolic metaphor. Show­ing pic­tures with­out peo­ple is like look­ing at a stage set at the be­gin­ning of play, when the cur­tains are just be­ing drawn up and the lights have come on, the cacophony of the au­di­ence slowly hush­ing down to that weighed si­lence of

an­tic­i­pa­tion, wait­ing for the act to be­gin but in­stead that’s where the play ends; as if, that it­self was the act!

I didn’t want the house to be merely seen as an out­side act, of ob­jects ar­ranged for a still life paint­ing, but in­stead a mu­seum of mem­o­ries; a col­lec­tion of small sto­ries, of our home and the way we have nes­tled into it and the way it co­coons us all — cud­dled like a baby in grandma’s al­len­com­pass­ing cra­dled lap.

Ev­ery act is a con­ver­sa­tion, the speaker and the lis­tener con­stantly switch­ing roles. As ar­chi­tects, we of­ten tend to for­get that our build­ings and its oc­cu­pants have a life and a voice of their own, and that we are al­ways in con­ver­sa­tion with them. Mak­ing houses is like rais­ing a child who, with time, be­gins to breathe its own life, and fill all our liv­ing mo­ments.

The house is a dy­namic, al­ways-chang­ing fluid com­po­si­tion that en­ables life it­self.

KM: The photos pro­duce a spa­tial jour­ney through the house — was this a re­view of your own de­sign ideas?

SR: Yes. My de­sign pro­cesses do not be­gin with

a set of loose ad­jec­tives that de­scribe its var­i­ous ob­jects, but rather like a dreamy act of be­ing within it, a haiku; an imag­i­na­tion of de­sires trans­ferred to an in­cep­tion.

I like to think about how one will sleep; what is the first thing one sees when they wake up; what will the floor feel like to the bare feet; is the room qui­eten­ing, or does it seek my con­stant at­ten­tion; and so on with the many metaphors and po­etic phrases of cin­e­matic qual­ity form­ing vi­gnettes that are then melded seam­lessly to make the built en­vi­ron­ment.

The house must fit me and all of us, like we would in our Sun­day dress; ca­sual, can­did, un­pre­ten­tious and easy. I like to think of it like writ­ing a script, for ev­ery act, ev­ery frame de­fined, and made into a beau­ti­ful paint­ing… such that the now-ness of rou­tine mo­ments is the pri­mary agenda and all that should mat­ter.

KM: There is a po­etic and sen­sual ap­proach in cap­tur­ing the breadth and pulse of the spa­ces and the elements that ar­tic­u­late those spa­ces. Is this, in any way, a re­flec­tion on, or mir­ror­ing of, or re­view­ing your own de­sign process?

SR: I be­lieve that I have the birthright to en­joy all things beau­ti­ful, and that all things must only be beau­ti­ful. Here, ‘beau­ti­ful’ is that which is done well with ef­fi­cacy and care. The pro­gramme and the proper op­er­a­tion that it fa­cil­i­tates is cer­tainly a given. When we are able to add to it, that which in­vokes a higher ex­pe­ri­ence, and en­gages our mind into an­other di­a­logue of in­ter­pre­ta­tion, it is called de­sign.

As an of­fice we are com­mit­ted to the idea of beauty, and strive and strug­gle to cre­ate beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ences through the de­sign of build­ings, the spa­ces and the ob­jects they will hold — to be used as a sen­sual ex­pe­ri­ence — of touch, of light and dark, of sounds and smells; a com­po­si­tion of tex­tu­ral spa­tial­ity that is fluid and dy­namic... A build­ing is not ar­chi­tec­ture with­out poesy, and its pri­mary pro­gramme is one to enun­ci­ate de­light, to in­voke and cel­e­brate emo­tion, even if it is in melan­choly. These pic­tures were taken to re­it­er­ate that idea, and com­mu­ni­cate that process of de­sign. The way we ad­vo­cate liv­ing de­light­fully — as vivid com­po­si­tions, like an un­flinch­ing sharp note of the crescendo that rises, res­onates and re­ver­ber­ates, as if savour­ing taste of old wine.

KM: What is the jour­ney of de­sign — from the de­sign process to a post-oc­cu­pancy ex­plo­ration of the de­sign?

SR: De­sign is like cre­at­ing a jazz com­po­si­tion.

A lot of in­stru­ments, sev­eral small phrases, sound ex­per­i­ments that slowly get strung, of­ten un­con­ven­tional, and set to an ab­stract me­tre that of­ten has no pre­dictable rhythm. The process, as the fi­nal ex­pe­ri­ence of the de­sign, is never lin­ear, lead­ing to a cli­max, but that which moves lat­er­ally, cir­cum­scrib­ing perime­ters of the spa­ces with an abil­ity to re­visit and re­call both in process and ex­pe­ri­ence. This in­volves rig­or­ous draw­ing and re­draw­ing, in­spect­ing elements, mea­sur­ing and qual­i­fy­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble per­for­mance in the space, and adding that cin­e­matic qual­ity of the per­fect scene in ev­ery pos­si­ble use of the space.

Our work is in­fused with de­tails, of­ten one that may be judged as re­dun­dant if one was us­ing op­ti­mum func­tion­al­ity and ef­fi­ciency as the mea­sur­ing yard­stick, but not from that which we set our­selves to achieve — cre­ate de­light in rou­tine acts.

We hope to to cre­ate mem­o­ries, to sed­i­ment lay­ers of en­gage­ment over the palimpsest of ideas. We work to evolve in its fi­nal ex­pe­ri­ence, not one sim­plis­tic dis­cernible en­tity but a com­plex con­text that al­lows a sense of nos­tal­gia.

This spread: Lo­cated on the ground floor, and over­look­ing a gar­den sur­rounded by trees, the house is not merely a space that holds ob­jects but that which cap­tures the beauty and thrum of the quo­tid­ian

This spread: Spe­cial care was taken in the de­tail­ing of ev­ery as­pect of the home — in­clud­ing draw­ers, door knoobs and han­dles, and the edges and cor­ners of the fur­ni­ture — de­signed by The Big Pi­ano

This spread: The pho­to­graphs cap­ture the play of light and shad­ows within the space, al­most cre­at­ing vi­gnettes that meld seam­lessly to make the built en­vi­ron­ment

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